I’m proud to have finished some books early into the year, so it’s time for my irregular book review post! Some books I won’t be delving too deep into, but I’ll be giving the comments that came to mind after I finished each one.
So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love
By Cal Newport
This is a solid read especially for people disillusioned by their career paths in life. We’ve all heard of the saying ‘do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’ but this book begs to differ. In this well-informed book, Cal poses the argument that ‘find your passion’ is the worst advise you can follow.
Despite having read his other books like Deep Work and Digital Minimalism, I found this book a bit hard to digest. In fact I’ve been consuming this book bit by bit since early 2022. I’ve finished other books in between parts of this one. It was only recently that I was able to finish it and I’m glad I powered through.
There’s a lot to learn in this book and I am convinced of the message that it preaches. I’ve been burnt out with my career for years and I’ve been wanting to find another path to go on. But finding this “passion” of mine is not what the book recommends. This book can equip you with all the steps you need to transform yourself into a better version (should you find the courage to apply it).
Just like a lot of the self-help books I’ve read, the things here aren’t easy to apply in real life (they require some skill, a lot of courage, and heaps of luck), but it’s good to know that whenever we’re ready to take steps towards improving our career paths, some clear steps are well-defined in this book.
The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down
By Haenim Sunim
This is the same author as the good book, Love For Imperfect Things which I reviewed in the past. It carries the same vibe as before, but with more focus on the practice of mindfulness. Haenim Sunim is a monk that tells parables of his life experiences and then the corresponding lesson to be learned.
Just like their other book, this is full of nuggets of thoughts that one could use in their daily lives. It’s full of reminders on how to live the best life that you can. Some are simple one-liners, others are entire paragraphs that you can let simmer in your mind all day long.
However, my favorite parts of the book are the ones that remind us to calm down in our busy lives and take some time to enjoy the present. There’s no need to rush things; not our lives and especially not our emotions.
This is a book that can be reread again and again as a reminder to ourselves that there is so much beauty and happiness in our lives despite all our unique situations and this seemingly hectic world. The book tells us that there is no need to rush because we are exactly where we are supposed to be.
How To Love
By Thich Nhat Hanh
This is another book written by a monk, and a very famous one at that. It’s a very short and wholesome book that’s quite self-explanatory. It is exactly as it’s title says: how to love.
This is a book that I believe everyone should read before engaging in a serious relationship. Although most of the things written here are painfully obvious, it’s still important to read them every once in a while. And despite the blindingly obvious words in this book, not everyone has the common sense to apply them in their daily lives.
Repetition is an important aspect for monks and in fact that’s what their meditations consist of. This brief book is a definite must-stay in my library because I can reread this again and again just to remind myself what it means to really love a person.
This book is not only for romantic relationships, but for every interpersonal relationship where people value each other. I firmly believe that love of all kinds are the acts that humanize us all and this book helps make sure that we are doing it correctly.
Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
By Thich Nhat Hanh
This is probably the most complete book on mindfulness I’ve read so far. This is from the same monk as the previous book. Thich Nhat Hanh is probably one of the most famous and prestigious monks in our time. His accomplishments precede him, from his anti-war protests to creating a peace village in France.
After reading this, I would like to dub it the “mindfulness” handbook. It’s a compilation of a lot of the things I’ve read from other books and then expounded on. There are a lot of practical things inside that you can do in order to exercise your habit of being mindful.
There are so many stories and lessons in this book that serve as regular reminders to appreciate what we have in the now. I love reading books on mindfulness because I’m often distracted by so many things in my everyday life. I’m very quick to anger and even quicker to forget. So constant prompts like these are very helpful for me.
I don’t plan to introduce all the book’s teachings into my daily life (I find meditation extremely boring), but even for the most skeptical person, there is still lots of important information to be found in this book. It’s another great book to have on your device just to read a page every now and then.
How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures
By Sabrina Imbler
This next book is half-memoir, half-science article and it was a wonderful read. I have long been fascinated with marine biology (my favorite animal is the octopus), so being able to read about this topic is icing on the cake.
The author was able to intertwine ocean animals with their life as an LGBTQ+ member as well as being half-white, half-Asian. Their childhood journey in trying to find out more about themselves was entertaining to read, especially when paralleled to some aspect of an ocean animal.
This book is a good look into the lives of other people who have experienced different traumas than I have. The writer themselves narrates everything in a way akin to a friend telling you their story inside a safe environment. Sabrina really opens up a lot in these pages and it can be uncomfortable at times, but these are the moments that I believe make the book so strong. It’s their truth being told in these pages and they demand to be heard.
Alternating between compelling sea creatures and amusing happenings in the author’s life was entertaining and I finished the book with a lot of new learnings, both about the lives of queer people as well as the wonderful creatures of the deep.
By Won-Pyung Sohn
This book was recommended by BTS’ RM. He’s one of the people I admire because of his intellect aside from being an idol. It’s obvious how passionate he is about arts, spirituality, and lots of other fields. I got curious about the books he reads and thankfully, there was an entire article about it.
This book was very easy to read and I was actually able to finish it within a day. It was my first fiction book in a while, after finishing some of Murakami’s works back in 2021.
This is the story of a boy born without the ability to feel and distinguish emotions. We follow his early life and his (traumatic) experiences like when his life is shaken up after meeting another boy who wears his heart on his sleeve. This contrasting dynamic makes up a bulk of the story and we are also introduced to a few more characters that give influence into his life.
I wouldn’t call this a coming of age story because it ends quite abruptly and too early for my liking. But this sudden conclusion (that is also open-ended) really makes your brain work overtime to fill in the blanks as well as reflect on the things that happened in the book.
This was a wonderful short story that explores what it is that makes us human as well as the differences between all of us when it comes to seeing life. It also touches on the topic of child-rearing as well as the moments of loss and how to handle it. I think this story would make a great movie.
By Franz Kafka
This book is another recommendation by RM and it’s a book that I am all too familiar with. I have started this book multiple times throughout my life because it is regarded as a classic. I tried in high school, once again in college, and finally again this year.
I never got past the first few pages because I found the story quite dull. In my previous attempt during college, I got frustrated and finished Kafka’s The Trial instead. But now I powered through it and I was finally engrossed.
I never realized it was this short. This was another book I finished in just a day thanks to the long commutes where I live. There I was on the train, immersed in the life of Gregor Samsa, who suddenly woke up transformed into an unspecific bug creature.
This story was sad and despite the bizarreness of the plot, I was actually rooting for Gregor to somehow find a solution to his predicament. There he was, being shunned by his family who he has supported for so long. It made me think of the future when I am old and frail and unable to be of service to the people I love.
The metaphors here are easily understood and reading them play out made me uncomfortable, thinking that the same could happen to me as well. To be discarded once your usefulness is done is a scary thing to think about.
This is the second work of Kafka’s that I’ve finished and I’m looking forward to reading more. His skill of being able to depict real-life experiences in such a weird way is unmatched and I want to read what other topics he tackles in his written works.
And that concludes this book review. For fiction lovers, I would suggest reading Almond because despite the short length, it tells a story worth reflecting on. For non-fiction lovers, this post has a lot of books that focus on mindfulness and each one has their own appeal.
As always, let me know if you have any book to recommend. I plan to finish a few more before we reach the first half of the year!
Stay safe and keep sharing.